Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Not a good year for bluebonnets

with 29 comments

No, 2018 hasn’t turned out to be a good or even average year for bluebonnets, Lupinus texensis. We drove more than a hundred miles through central Texas yesterday, and while we saw some attractive clusters and individual plants, we found none of the great displays that Texas is famous for in the spring. Not having taken any bluebonnet pictures on that drive, I’ll compensate here with a never-before-shown photograph from northeast Austin on March 14, 2012.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 5, 2018 at 4:41 AM

29 Responses

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  1. one of my favorite flowers in the spring


    April 5, 2018 at 4:45 AM

  2. I love bluebonnets! I’ve been to Texas a few times when they were in bloom and the scene was very outstanding! I was given a package of bluebonnet seeds many years ago and managed to get a few growing in a flowerbed. If I remember correctly I had to soak the seeds and then scarify them a bit to get them to germinate. At the time I wondered how, in nature, a seed ever germinated if one had to go to that much trouble! None of those stunning beauties reseeded to flourish in my flower beds.


    April 5, 2018 at 5:39 AM

    • I’m glad you’ve gotten to see better bluebonnets than the ones we saw yesterday. What you say about your difficulty in germinating seeds is probably why so many plants produce such great numbers of them, only a small fraction of which ever find the the right conditions to give rise to new plants.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 5, 2018 at 7:42 AM

  3. So are these wild flowers (Lupinus texensis) related to the masses of lupins you find growing wild in the south island of New Zealand? And are they related to our hybrid lupins? Any ideas why there aren’t the masses around this year? I know, FAR too many questions.


    April 5, 2018 at 6:31 AM

    • In answer to your first question: yes, alas. My rule of thumb when I traveled several thousand miles around New Zealand was: If you see a wildflower, it isn’t native. Would that that weren’t so often the case. In England you had your War of the Roses; here’s an article about New Zealand’s War of the Lupins:


      As far as I know, hybrid lupins are modifications or natural <i<Lupinus species.

      People here assume that we didn’t get enough rain in central Texas over the winter and into the spring to produce a good bluebonnet crop.

      I don’t find three questions onerous. If you’d asked thirty, well, that’d be another story.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 5, 2018 at 7:53 AM

  4. Check closer to home. Not enough rain west of here. Sam Houston Ave SE of Georgetown looks good.

    Agnes Plutino

    April 5, 2018 at 6:49 AM

    • Just the other day I was thinking about how you’ve tipped me off to good locations over the years, and here you are doing it again this morning. Thanks. I’ll check it out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 5, 2018 at 7:57 AM

  5. I saw lots of beautiful displays between Lockhart and Bastrop on Monday, April 2, 2018.


    April 5, 2018 at 10:00 AM

  6. Traveled along 130 from Georgetown to HYW 71 – the ditches are blanketed with bluebonnets. From the intersection of the toll road to Bastrop, great variety of wild flowers.


    April 5, 2018 at 1:56 PM

    • Thanks for your report. Following Agnes’s lead about Sam Houston Ave. in Georgetown, I ended up at 130 and took some pictures of its flower-covered embankments. I haven’t yet made it southeast of Austin, as you and Craig suggested.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 5, 2018 at 2:41 PM

      • The median of SH 130 south of the split with SH45 to Buda is blanketed in Bluebonnets, but I could see no safe/legal way to photograph them. Maybe you are more “creative” than I am. 🙂


        April 5, 2018 at 3:25 PM

        • This time I can’t claim any “creativity.” The place along SH 130 where I took pictures was at an exit, so it was both safe and easy to walk into the area between the highway and the southbound exit ramp.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 5, 2018 at 4:03 PM

  7. Beautiful flower! Sad that they’re not doing well this year.


    April 5, 2018 at 8:12 PM

    • Hang on until the morning and you’ll see what I found when I followed up on one of this post’s comments.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 5, 2018 at 9:27 PM

  8. […] The previous post mentioned my disappointment, after driving over a hundred miles the day before, at not finding any large colonies of Texas bluebonnets, Lupinus texensis. In response, three people left comments about places east of Austin, rather than west, that had some good bluebonnet displays. Within a few hours I followed up on the first lead, by Agnes Plutino, about Sam Houston Avenue in Georgetown. I drove east along it to TX 130, where I took the picture you see here. The red flowers are Indian paintbrushes, Castilleja indivisa. […]

  9. I see that you were tipped off to some better displays — hooray! Still, this image is lovely, and it certainly shows off the range of colors that can be found on a single flower. Though I didn’t find blanketed fields during my recent jaunt, I did find many more flowers coming home than going, especially south of I-10 around Moulton, Shiner, and Halletsville.

    Some were more purely blue than I’ve ever seen, too. Perhaps they were a different species, or it may be that conditions were just right.


    April 6, 2018 at 8:45 AM

    • Hooray, indeed, as you’ll confirm in the follow-up post. If the weather brightens, I’ll follow the leads to the southeast. I probably won’t stray as far as Moulton, Shiner, and Halletsville, but I expect upcoming posts of yours will show some of your finds there. Maybe the blue bluebonnets you saw were Lupinus subcarnosus, which do grow in that area:


      Steve Schwartzman

      April 6, 2018 at 9:01 AM

  10. I have never grown them, but am still wondering what they look like; if they are more like the sky lupine or the arroyo lupine. I will grow them someday. (I tried once, but things went bad.) Are they being crowded out by invasive exotic specie?


    April 7, 2018 at 1:20 PM

    • I’m afraid I don’t know those other species of lupines, so I can’t compare.

      I’ve occasionally seen a limited area where alien invasives have given bluebonnets a run for their money. On the whole, though, bluebonnets have held their own pretty well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 7, 2018 at 1:34 PM

      • They probably grow where the exotics do not want to venture.


        April 7, 2018 at 1:37 PM

        • Unfortunately some exotics are aggressive and seem to want to grow everywhere. It’s sometimes hard to get a decent picture of natives due to the intermittent Johnson grass, for example.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 7, 2018 at 1:47 PM

  11. I have walked the Andean landscape, blanketed with a carpet of blues and ‘cranberry’ when the lupines and red quinoa compliment each other. For sure this up-close inspection even the same distinct leaf shape as the cousins have here in Ecuador.. there are several images from this old post: https://playamart.wordpress.com/2014/11/26/ecuadors-colourful-andes/

    • Thanks for the link. Yes, I see the strong genus resemblance between the Texas lupines and yours. How fortunate that you’ve been able to add quinoa to the mix. As you saw in the follow-up post and already commented on, the blue/red combination here has paintbrushes complementing the lupines.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 8, 2018 at 9:17 PM

  12. […] I published a post last week entitled “Not a good year for bluebonnets,” three people locally gave me reports on places where wildflowers are currently looking […]

  13. […] and Steve’s here: Not a Good Year for Bluebonnets […]

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